0318 – Depressed in Spirit: Existential Depression

I recently came across this article on my Facebook feed, which introduced me to a new concept: Existential Depression.

And I have an official name to call what happened to me my entire life in the last few years of my life.

After I found the article, I immediately went online to find out more about existential depression. That led me to this page, entitled “Being Depressed in Spirit: Deeper than Psychological Depression.” Huh. Intriguing.

In short, there is such a thing called spiritual or existential depression, which is distinguishable from psychological depression. There are many differences between the two, but one that caught my eyes is  the fact that existential depression cannot be directly traced to a cause. This quote captures how terrible it (existential depression) felt:

“Spiritual or existential depression is a helpless feeling of being drained and depleted, dying, decaying, going away.

One common image is the hole.
We seem to be falling or sinking into a bottomless blackness.
The goo into which we sink presses on us from all sides,
but it gives no support from below.

We stand hip-deep in a hole in the ground. We can see the world around us, but we cannot relate to it. We want to crawl all the way down into the hole and cry. When we are alone, we don’t have to keep up a happy front. We don’t have to submit to being ‘cheered up’ by well-meaning people.”

Boy I don’t know how many times I’ve used the words “abyss” and “bottomless” to describe my feelings.

Another fact: Existential depression is “permanent–always present in our selves, altho [sic] repressed [emphasis mine].”

As a passionate supporter of positive psychology and well-being indicators as tools for public policy, I like reading, learning and talking about happiness. I like feeling happiness too–all of us I’m sure. But I echo the words I heard from Dr. Chris Peterson, one of the forefathers of positive psychology: that positive psychology is never meant to replace or displace conventional psychology. Rather, it should work together. Previously, nobody was studying how to get from “ok” to “well,” but we will always need to get from “unwell” to “ok.” My point is that depression is. a. big. deal. There is no discounting the excruciating pain of depression, including–if I can say so from my own experience–the pain of existential depression.

So I know that there is a chance some of you with existential depression may be doing a search for the phrase “existential depression” or “spiritual depression.” So this below is for us:

You We are not alone. We. Are. Not. Alone.

You may feel like many people don’t understand you. You can’t figure out what’s wrong with you. You feel like it’s dark all around. You’re sinking further into this bottomless abyss. And you don’t know why.

We’ve asked the same questions. We’ve wondered the same things. We know how awful meaninglessness feels. We’ve looked many places to find our passion, our meaning, our purpose, our goal. Goddamnit if only we can just find that spark.

“Just forget about it.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out someday.”
“You’re thinking too much.”

We’ve all heard them before. Well-intentioned words that are rendered stone cold as it travels through the shallow air of the abyss that is spiritual depression. Those don’t comfort us. We get even more frustrated hearing them.

But we’re not crazy.

And we’re not alone.

We care. Too much at times. But we care because we only get to live once. We care because we don’t own the planet and we want to make our lives worth the resources we’re taking. We care because there seems to be something so inexplicably and frustratingly incorrect about our society and that’s gotta change. Now.

I wish I can tell you the formula to feel better overnight. I mean… we’re not really about that, are we? Because sometimes “the journey is the treatment.” I’m still looking for my passion. I’m still looking for my dream job. I’m still fighting every damn day to not feel useless. And noone–I mean noone–can convince me otherwise. And I know you feel the same way.

I’m 23, and I’ve been in this for over six years. And I don’t think it’s gonna end soon.

I can’t offer you a solution, but I can offer you this: Have hope. Cling on to hope. Hope that the world will change. Hope that you will find someone who truly understands you. Hope that you will find your true you one day. Hope that it will be all right. Hope that we will make impact. Hope that we will find our meaning. Not because we will, because I can’t promise you that either. Hope, because along the journey you will grow and you will start to understand why things are the way they are and you will start to grip why you feel this way. And most importantly – because you will make an impact one day, even if it’s to one person or one area. I know you don’t believe me now. Because I didn’t believe myself. Here’s the catch: I’m speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you. But I’m hoping.

Let’s fight together. We can.